Subject: JP: E. Timor legislators asked to quit DPR

The Jakarta Post March 2, 2002

E. Timor legislators asked to quit

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Four legislators representing East Timor have been asked to quit the House of Representatives (DPR) as the fledgling country is no longer part of Indonesia.

Endin A.J. Soefihara, secretary of the United Development Party (PPP) faction, urged the legislators to withdraw from the House, while A.M. Luthfi of the Reform faction called for a review of their membership in the House.

The four legislators, elected to represent East Timor in 1999, are: Setya Novanto and Natercia Do Menino Jesus Osorio Soares of the Golkar Party, and Rekso Ageng Herman and Ronny B.S. Hutagaol of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan). Only Soares is a native East Timorese.

East Timor voted for independence in a United Nations-organized referendum in 1999, and in May 2002 will become the first country to achieve independence in the 21st century.

Calls are mounting for the four legislators to resign from the House as they have no more constituents.

However, Golkar and PDI Perjuangan are unlikely to let the four quit as it would directly affect their bargaining position in the House.

"Legally, their membership in the DPR ceased when the East Timorese voted to break way from Indonesia. Being a legislator, one must have constituents," Endin told The Jakarta Post on Friday night.

"Whom do they represent? Their constituents and territory do not exist anymore," said Endin, adding that their seats should be given to new provinces.

Luthfi said the status of those legislators should be reviewed after East Timor obtains independence in May, 2002.

"We must talk about their status after that date," Luthfi said.

But, according to Golkar faction chairman Marzuki Achmad, the four legislators would keep their posts until the next general election in 2004.

"Those legislators will remain in their position until 2004. We have no plan to change their status," he told the Post

He said the four legislators would keep busy looking after the interests of the 128,000 East Timorese refugees in West Timor. The refugees have run out of food after Indonesia stopped aid early last January.

"Although the territory will secede from Indonesia, several problems including refugees and students need to be taken into account. Therefore, political representation is still needed," Marzuki said.

He said both Natercia and Setya Novanto often welcomed delegations of East Timorese refugees discussing the future of those refugees. "I think the process will last long," he added.

Vice-chairman of PDI Perjuangan faction Panda Nababan, meanwhile, said his faction would leave the issue to the General Election Commission (KPU).

"KPU will decide on the issue. We wait for that institution to make a decision," Panda said.

Meanwhile, KPU member Mulyana W. Kusumah urged House leaders to send a letter to President Megawati Soekarnoputri, asking her to decide on the issue.

"This matter should be decided by the President because the legislators were sworn in by the President," Mulyana told the Post.

He, however, advised the four legislators to resign voluntarily as they had no more constituents.

Earlier, one of the legislators, Rekso Ageng Herman, said he would not resign so that he could keep helping East Timorese refugees to have a better future.

"They (East Timorese refugees) are still my constituents. They are still Indonesian citizens. The problem was only their status," Rekso said.

He revealed that currently the government had offered the East Timorese refugees new settlement in the nearby Wetar island, but they had not made up their mind.

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